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The Accidental Icon: Neil Young

There’s a fine sartorial line between Neil Young and, say, Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard. Both subscribe to function over form. Rather than laying out tomorrow’s clothes the night before, more often than not they simply wear last night’s clothes tomorrow. If they own mirrors, they’re of the rear-view variety. Neither is particularly attractive, yet both are widely beloved.

Unfortunately, though, not everyone can be deemed a Kempt icon...

Like penicillin, the origins of Neil Young’s iconic style can be attributed largely to fortuitous blunder and ever-evolving active ingredients. There have been consistencies over the decades, of course—rugged authenticity, Slash-like introverted bangs, frayed caps retrieved from the off-ramps of blue highways and so on.

But as we’ve attempted to illustrate here, each new season seems to bring with it a sartorially face-lifted Young. Cobain’s pre-grunge look evolves effortlessly into an Orbison’s hair helmet, or Bowie-like pizzazz, or roboticism inspired (or bitten, perhaps) by the Talking Heads. Formally, he was in Dylan territory, which is to say he found little use for jackets and ties.

Most notably, though, was Young’s texture—a collection of worn-in pieces, pieced together over the years, having worn them in all the right places. More often than not, Young looked to be dressed for an eclectic campfire.

“You have no idea how expensive it is to look this cheap,” Steven Tyler once admitted back in the 1970s.

To which Young would likely say, with complete indifference, “... and you have no idea how cheap it is to look this cheap.”

Old man, it’s been a pleasure looking at your life this week—hopefully one day we’ll be a lot like you.

I’ve always been better moving than I am standing still.

Everything happens for a reason.

For your creative juices, your geography’s got a hell of a lot to do with it.

I like people, I just don’t have to see them all the time.